Do you know which Microsoft Technical Evangelist your team is working with? If not, or if you aren’t working with a MS evangelist – perish the thought! – you’re missing out on one of the most valuable relationships an ISV can have with MS.
Technical Evangelists are amazing people – they’re talented developers with uncontrollable curiosity who immerse themselves in new technologies long before they ship, exploring technical nooks and crannies before there’s reliable documentation. They work with the MS program managers, developers and testers for their product to develop a deep understanding of how it works, and why the product operates this way instead of that. They write sample code to prove (or disprove) their own understanding of how things work (or don’t).
Then they gather audiences of developers in cities across their region, explain the product they’re working on, write code on-stage to demo early product builds that are very likely to crash, do their best to answer every question that’s thrown at them, and share their passion for their product with their audience. When they’re done, the evangelist jumps on an airplane and does it all again in another city.
Evangelists are also the champions of the developer community within MS – they take the feedback they receive and share it with the MS product team. If developers aren’t understanding something, the evangelist can write sample code or get documentation changed to clarify. If developers find an API would be more useful if it were changed a certain way, the evangelist can make that case to the product team.
Behind the scenes, the central mission of the evangelist is to identify ISVs who can deliver early implementations of their products on a new MS product release, that will motivate other developers to do their own implementations, and do them earlier. Before the MS product releases, evangelists focus on those early adopters and help them deliver compelling product releases; quality, not quantity. After release, evangelists shift focus to drive broad adoption across the ISV community; more is better.
Did I mention that evangelists also nominate partners to participate in high profile demos at events like BUILD and TechEd, to meet with press and analysts, and to become known across the MS product team, and known to other evangelists and the MS field sales teams?
Let’s review, from your perspective as an ISV. Your evangelist will have deep knowledge of the MS product you’re interested in, understanding how that product operates and why. They love to share with you what they know, love it when you ask tough questions that send them back to the product team to get the answer (and learn something new), and helping you ship a great product, at the same time or soon after the new MS product release, is the central objective for their performance review. They also help decide whether it’s you or someone else who basks in the glory of keynote product demos, etc.
If that doesn’t leave you keen to connect with your evangelist, I can’t imagine what it would take!
How do you find your Technical Evangelist?
Most evangelists operate in a specific region, and are affiliated with their region’s MS sales organization. (Don’t worry about that, it’s an organizational/geography thing, not a sales thing.) So one way to find your local developer evangelist is to contact your local sales office and ask who the local evangelist is.
For the US, the Microsoft U. S. Office Locations page exposes the MS sales regions and the office locations within each region. For example, under the Greater Southeast District there’s info on the Alpharetta, GA office. If you’re an ISV based in the Atlanta area, you should contact the Alpharetta office and ask which evangelist you should be working with.
Worldwide, you can visit Microsoft Worldwide, select your country and you’ll see contact info for the country headquarters. Contact them and ask which evangelist you should be working with.
Many MS evangelists and evangelism teams have their own web sites, and the web search “Canada evangelist Microsoft”, for example, turns up the MSDN Canadian Community page which identifies the MS Canada developer evangelists.
Be aware that most MS evangelists are focused on a specific product, perhaps Windows 8 or IE 10, so you’ll want to ask for the evangelist in your area that’s focused on the same products you’re interested in.
Finally, MS has a variety of “xyz evangelist” titles and roles – technical evangelist, developer evangelist, architect evangelist, partner evangelist, etc. – see “Role Descriptions” in the upper-right corner of Meet Your Local Microsoft Evangelists. For ISVs, focus on the Technical Evangelist or Developer Evangelist roles.
(Caution: the list of evangelists on that page is very stale, my quick review showed several evangelists listed who are now in different roles or have left MS, so do not rely on that info!)
TODO: contact your local MS sales office, and ask to be put in touch with the local evangelist focused on the products you’re interested in.
Have you connected with your local evangelist? How has that worked out for you? Let me know in comments.